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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Vol.108, No.49, 2011; Pages: 19657 - 61

Microbial methane production in oxygenated water column of an oligotrophic lake

Grossart HP, Frindte K, Dziallas C, Eckert W, Tang KW

Department of Limnology of Stratified Lakes, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, D-16775 Stechlin, Germany.

Abstract

The prevailing paradigm in aquatic science is that microbial methanogenesis happens primarily in anoxic environments. Here, we used multiple complementary approaches to show that microbial methane production could and did occur in the well-oxygenated water column of an oligotrophic lake (Lake Stechlin, Germany). Oversaturation of methane was repeatedly recorded in the well-oxygenated upper 10 m of the water column, and the methane maxima coincided with oxygen oversaturation at 6 m. Laboratory incubations of unamended epilimnetic lake water and inoculations of photoautotrophs with a lake-enrichment culture both led to methane production even in the presence of oxygen, and the production was not affected by the addition of inorganic phosphate or methylated compounds. Methane production was also detected by in-lake incubations of lake water, and the highest production rate was 1.8-2.4 nM·h(-1) at 6 m, which could explain 33-44% of the observed ambient methane accumulation in the same month. Temporal and spatial uncoupling between methanogenesis and methanotrophy was supported by field and laboratory measurements, which also helped explain the oversaturation of methane in the upper water column. Potentially methanogenic Archaea were detected in situ in the oxygenated, methane-rich epilimnion, and their attachment to photoautotrophs might allow for anaerobic growth and direct transfer of substrates for methane production. Specific PCR on mRNA of the methyl coenzyme M reductase A gene revealed active methanogenesis. Microbial methane production in oxygenated water represents a hitherto overlooked source of methane and can be important for carbon cycling in the aquatic environments and water to air methane flux.

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